The convenience of tapping your phone at the cash register instead of fumbling for loose change in your physical wallet is undeniable. Nearly 40% of Canadians used their mobile wallets more often in 2020 because of the perceived safety of contactless payment, according to one report.1 While digital wallets and tap to pay is becoming more widespread, you may wonder: what exactly is a digital wallet? Are they safe?
A digital wallet, also known as a mobile wallet, is a smartphone app that stores your payment information and enables tap to pay at most point-of-sale terminals. A digital wallet is perfectly safe, as long as you guard your smartphone just as closely as you would your physical wallet.
Here’s why you should secure your digital wallet and three tips to help you do so.
Why You Should Secure Your Digital Wallet
Think about what you store in your physical wallet: credit cards, debit cards, driver’s license, library cards, gift cards, cash. Now, imagine (or if you’ve been unlucky enough to lose your wallet in the past, think back to) the hassle that would ensue if someone stole your wallet or you misplaced it. Not only do you have to cancel your cards, notify your various banks, and wait for replacements, but the niggling worry that a stranger has access to your personally identifiable information (PII) will likely keep you up at night.
Just like you store your wallet in your front pocket when about town and check your seat before leaving a taxi or a plane, look after your smartphone just as closely. Unlike a physical wallet, whose absence is noticed quickly, a digital wallet may be compromised by a cyber pickpocket without you knowing for a while. For example, the BBC reported that researchers found a potential shortcoming in Apple Pay’s Express Transit mode where cyber pickpockets could remotely access mobile wallets.2 Luckily, the researchers’ experiment is unlikely to occur in the real world, but it’s a reminder to everyone to check their monthly bank statements for suspicious transactions. Cybercriminals get smarter and bolder by the day, so it’s not unlikely that they’ll find and exploit a digital wallet shortcoming in the future.
Follow these tips to help you use your digital wallet more confidently.
Tips to Protect Your Digital Wallet
1. Set a unique passcode
Always protect your digital wallet with a passcode! This is the best and easiest way to deter cybercriminals. It’s best if this combination of numbers is different than the passcode to your phone. Also, make sure the numbers are random. Birthdays, anniversaries, house addresses, and the last digits of your phone number are all popular combinations and are crackable codes to a resourceful criminal.
Better yet, if your mobile wallet app allows you to protect your account with facial recognition or a fingerprint scan, set it up! If your digital wallet proves difficult or impossible to enter, a cybercriminal may leave it for an easier target, keeping your PII safe.
2. Update software regularly
Another way to secure your digital wallet is to make sure you always download the latest software updates. Developers are constantly finding and patching security holes, so the most up-to-date software is often the most secure. Turn on automatic updates to ensure you never miss a new release.
3. Download digital wallet apps directly from official websites
Before you swap your plastic cards for digital payment methods, make sure you research the digital banking app before downloading. Make sure that any app you download is through the official Apple or Android store or the financial institution’s official website. Then, check out how many downloads and reviews the app has to make sure you’re downloading an official app and not an imposter. While most of the apps on official stores are legitimate, it’s always best practice to check for typos, blurry logos, and unprofessional app descriptions to make sure.
Be More Confident Online
The digital era is an exciting time to make the most of the conveniences technology affords; however, constant vigilance is key to keeping your finances and PII private. Whether you’re looking for additional peace of mind or have lost your wallet, consider signing up for an identity monitoring service like McAfee identity protection. McAfee will monitor your email addresses and bank accounts and alert you to suspicious activities up to 10 months sooner than similar services. Are you curious about how secure your current online habits are? Check your Security Protection Score today and see what steps you can take to live more confidently online.